Photos of Pearl by Connor Catalano and DiDi Sea. Photo of Shea Van Horn by M.V. Jantzen.
One of Washington’s most beloved DJs, Shea Van Horn, is DJing the BYT/Capital Pride FLASHBACK Opening Party this weekend alongside Pearl (RuPaul’s Drag Race). Both are DJs. Both do drag. So, we put the two of them on the phone to talk about music, drag, and the upcoming party this Friday (which will sell out, maybe before you finish reading this article, so grab your tickets now).
DJs Shea Van Horn and Pearl
Shea Van Horn: Where are you right now?
Pearl: I’m in Chicago.
Shea: What are you doing in Chicago?
Pearl: We have all the girls coming back to do a show on Wednesday and Thursday here.
Shea: Awesome, so all 14 girls from Season 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race?
Pearl: Yes. I lived here for four years. So, I flew in a little early so I could spend some time with friends.
Shea: Actually, that was one of my questions I wanted to ask. Where do you call home these days? Is it Brooklyn?
Pearl: Yeah ,I live in Brooklyn. I mean, my storage unit, aka my old apartment, is in Brooklyn.
Shea: And that’s where you were living when you auditioned and got cast in Season 7?
Pearl: I auditioned when I was still living in Chicago, and then I got on the show when I was living in Brooklyn. So, it was kind of hard to decide which city to represent. I thought I should go with Chicago. But, I think they wanted the rivalry thing with me and Miss Fame – from Brooklyn and Manhattan. So, you know, I kind of let them decide, and I ended up reppin’ Brooklyn.
Shea: Where did you grow up as a kid?
Pearl: I grew up in a small beach town in Florida, on the Gulf Coast, called St. Petersburg.
Shea: Yeah, I’ve heard of it. I don’t know about your family – I think we met your mom by watching RuPaul’s Drag Race – but, do you have brothers and sisters?
Pearl: Yeah, I’ve got an older sister and a younger sister – and yeah, my mom.
Shea: It was really touching what you shared on the show about being a gay kid growing up. I feel like a lot of gay kids watching the show could relate to what you were sharing about your childhood and I thought it was sweet and very generous of you. I was wondering if you could share one of your happiest childhood or teenage memories.
Pearl: I think I was always a super independent kid; I never had a ton of friends. My older sister was very rebellious and put my mom through a lot of shit. So, my mom left me to my own devices. I’d say one of my happiest memories was being 16 or 17 and sort of becoming an independent teenager. I was never technically emancipated from my house or anything. But, I was out there living my own life doing my thing at 16. I had a boyfriend who kind of helped me out. Yeah, I think getting that final independence was a good time for me.
Shea: I’m really curious to hear about your album “Pleasure” and your path to creating it. What is your background with music? There’s a precedent of Rupaul’s Drag Race drag queens putting out albums and singing on them. It was really interesting to hear that your path is about production and DJing and I was curious to hear how that came about.
Pearl: I mean, I’ve always loved music. Obviously, for a lot of us it has been an escape. The happiest times of my life have always been on the dance floor with friends just not caring about anything else – forgetting all your issues and just releasing your inhibitions on the dance floor. Those have always been the happiest times for me.
As far as my production goes, I’ve always dabbled around with making things on synths, on apps even. I’ve always enjoyed making my own beats. Obviously, we all saw the show, I’m not a singer. I never saw myself as a live-singing drag queen. I think everyone should get to do what they want to do. But, it’s never been my thing. I love house music so much and I feel passionate about nightlife, so it just made sense. I’ve never been an official DJ until now. But, there have been plenty of moments where I’ve provided music for the party, and I know how to turn it up, and so it seems like a really good direction to go.
Shea: That’s really cool. You definitely stand out as something very different as far as the Drag Race drag queens and what they do next after the show.
Pearl: Plus, it’s different. I always try to stay outside the box. I try to go on my own direction, naturally.
Shea: That’s cool. I’m excited, and I know my friends are excited, to see you at the BYT/Capital Pride FLASHBACK Opening Party here in D.C. I don’t know if they’ve explained the course of the night, but there’s five different DJs and each of them are spinning a different 10 years of music. I got the 70s because I’m also performing in drag later in the night. So, I need time to get into face.
Pearl: Oh, are you?
Shea: Yeah, I am. Wait, are you going to be in drag or not in drag?
Pearl: No, no. I just kind of want to enjoy the night and actually not be in drag for once.
Shea: I know that feeling. So, it’ll be boy Pearl. That’s awesome.
Pearl: Yeah, I try to keep the two separate.
Shea: That was also very striking as far as album artwork. Obviously, you’re aware people think you’re cute. So, it was awesome to see boy Pearl on the cover of your album.
Pearl: Thanks. Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to be in drag for the rest of my life. I kind of want to at least have another project where I’m not necessarily expected to be in drag.
Shea: Is there anything about your set that you could let party goers know? What’s your style like. or what do you do when you’re DJing? What kind of music do you like to play? Obviously house, I assume.
Pearl: I gravitate more towards a darker style, more of like a sexy moody, whitchy style of house – not your traditional old school house music. I think that it’s important to start at one end and then end in another. So, I don’t know. Maybe, in the beginning, I’ll feel a little more dancey. But, towards the end I want to establish an atmosphere that’s definitely more of a sexy vibe.
Shea: Who are some of your favorite bands or artists? Either people you’re really into right now or maybe some of the bands or artists you were into growing up.
Pearl: Well, it’s funny when I think about the music I listen to right now, obviously the album consumed so much time. There wasn’t really a lot of time to listen to other music -being on tour and doing all of these performances and stuff. I think as a performing drag queen you feel this demand for particular songs that you do. So, I only travel with five or six different songs. So when the opportunity would finally come where I would plug in my headphones and turn on my iPod, I honestly don’t want to hear anything. I enjoy the silence these days.
As far as things that I loved to hear growing up I always gravitated towards electro-pop, like Miss Kittin or Electrocute or Peaches. Oh my God! I remember loving Gravy Train and Dirty Sanchez. And, yeah, I never really liked Top-40 music. These days, I don’t listen to music. I just enjoy the silence when the opportunity is available. The funny thing is I don’t really seek out new music to listen to.
Shea: I have this image of you with your headphones on pretending to listen to something but nothing’s in there.
Pearl: Oh no, completely! That way, if I’m in the subway and someone yells “Pearl!” I can just act like I don’t hear as I shuffle in the subway car.
Shea: Have you ever been to Washington, D.C. before?
Pearl: No, never.
Shea: What are your expectations?
Pearl: I haven’t heard much about the gig yet, I heard it’s in a theater.
Shea: Yeah it’s at Arena Stage. It’s a pretty cool space. Where the DJ plays – you’re up above where people will be dancing in this large open area, but you’re also in with the people with a second dance floor behind you. You’ll be able to be very connected.
Pearl: Cool. Yeah, I’ve never been in D.C. It’s really unfortunate with all the traveling that I’m only in a place for one night at a time. So, I don’t get to experience the full effect of the city or anything. But I think it will be easier since I won’t be in drag I’ll have time to get into town, and look around before I have to get ready – rather than taking a nap because I didn’t get to sleep the night before and then having to paint at 6:00pm.
Shea: We haven’t really talked about your drag stuff yet. So, let me ask a few drag questions. How long have you been doing drag?
Pearl: It will be three years in October.
Shea: Can you point to any drag inspirations that you thought were really cool when you started doing it?
Pearl: Yea, I liked doing drag because it was my own style. I never really felt super inspired. I mean, of course there were drag queens that I loved and adored. But,I wouldn’t say their look registered on me or anything. There’s a drag queen in Australia named Dallas Dellaforce. She has always been my all time favorite drag queen.
Coco Peru is one of my favorite drag queens, I’m performing with her in Portland I think the night after the D.C show. Lady Bunny – you know, the usual comedy queens…I guess because I’m not really much of a comedy queen. You know, I’m an idiot and I’m goofy as hell in person though. I could never get on stage and be a comedy queen, though. But, I wouldn’t say I have a drag aesthetic that I love.
Shea: You stood out as being very unique and having your own style. I asked some people on my social media if anyone had any questions for you, and someone said you should trademark your look because it is very unique. It’s true you have a very unique style and, in my opinion, you came of as very low key. You never came off as “checked out” on the show. You just seemed low key and down to earth.
Pearl: Thanks. Thank you. That’s very nice.
Shea: Thinking back to some of the challenges, what was your favorite challenge of the show?
Pearl: I really enjoyed the Hello Kitty challenge at the end. It was one of the only ones that we got to work on as an individual. It was definitely the season of the group challenges. I’m not saying I don’t work well with others, but I work really really well independently. You know, I’m not much of a sewer. But, I came up with a really cool look that I really loved. I don’t know, it was just fun and I didn’t feel like there was a lot of pressure. I also enjoyed Glamazonian Airways in the very beginning. I don’t know, the challenges were so weird. The whole experience was really weird.
Shea: When you think back to that period of time, from day one of walking into the workroom to the whole thing – It must be pretty surreal.
Pearl: Yeah. It kind of doesn’t feel like it actually happened. I really don’t know what exactly is happening to me right now, like, I know that it’s happening but I don’t really understand the gravity of the situation. Like when you got through an amazing thing or through a horrible experience, its like ‘how do you get through it’? You take it one day at a time. It just feels surreal. Plus, it happened so long ago. People ask me, “How was the reunion taping?” I’m like, I don’t know I barely remember it. It went by so fast and then it was over. The whole show went by really fast.
Shea: How much time were you in L.A. doing the taping?
Pearl: Six weeks.
Shea: That’s a lot to have happen.
Pearl: Oh yea.
Shea: I mean we’re all watching after the fact when it’s packaged into hour-long chunks.
Pearl: It’s crazy how much actually happens while you’re there, because you’re being filmed for 14 hours a day and its more than how much they cut and put into the actual show. They just leave so much out, like an unfinished story. But, that’s Drag Race. It’s not a reality show. It’s not a real competition show. It’s fucking General Hospital.
You have a predetermined character; you have your lines written for you. You can do an amazing job in a challenge, but if it doesn’t fit what they need then they’re going to edit it to make it look like you did a horrible job. It’s whatever they want it to be, it truly is. When situations just happen to fall into place for them, you can see it in the producers’ faces. You know they’re just like “yes yes yes.” It was very hard for me to conform too, I don’t know, it just wasn’t what I expected at all. I admit I felt rebellious being there and feeling that way.
Shea: Are you glad that you did it?
Pearl: Oh yeah, of course. I wouldn’t change anything. Of course I think “Oh god, I wish I could have walked in there and done everything differently”. But how could I say that when I was so successful on the show and with how things are going now? Its hard watching the embarrassing moments, but there’s a lot of good moments too. I’ve seen every episode one time. I don’t know, it’s like when you hear yourself on a voicemail and you can barely listen to your own voice on a voicemail—it’s like that times a thousand. I can’t re-watch them over and over again. It’s weird. It’s weird.
Shea: So tell me about Flazeda. Is this a real perfume?
Pearl: Yeah, it’s real. It hasn’t been made yet, but it’s available for pre-order. I’ve just been traveling so much and it’s hard to approve a bunch of scents where you can’t even find me or don’t know where to send them to. It probably won’t be available for at least another month or so.
Shea: Do you know what you want it to smell like?
Pearl: Yeah. I want it to be unisex; I want anyone to wear it. I want it to be universal for any situation – like day wear or a night wear. I want it to be sweet with a little bit of spice. Like some musk, but some sweetness on top, not too sweet. You know this is going to be a legit bottle of perfume, not some body splash. This is 100% perfume with perfume oils, no fillers or anything. The bottle will last you months and months.
Shea: Where do you see yourself in five days, five months, and five years?
Pearl: In five days I’ll be in Australia, well in six days. Five months…in November I have another U.K .tour. And in five years, I don’t know, I’m trying to get through this week. Five years, I don’t know, hopefully I’ll be able to buy a house in five years.
Shea: Good for you, girl.
Pearl: Yeah, I’m trying.
Shea: I did ask people to weigh in with some questions, and obviously one of the questions was “Can we have sex?” I’m not going to make you answer that question since you don’t even know who they are. Are you single?
Pearl: Yeah, I’m single.
Shea: What’s your type?
Pearl: A gentleman who looks me directly in the eyes and makes me laugh and isn’t a douchebag and has a super open mind. Pretty much if you can make me laugh and you’re not a freak and don’t do crystal meth. Those are all great things.
Shea: Those are important things to rule out; I’m with you on that.
Pearl: Yeah, there’s a lot of meth going around, it’s hard to find a guy whose never intentionally smoked meth. So, kind of hard you have to say that when considering a date.
Shea: What was it like making out with Detox?
Pearl: Oh, we make out all the time. We’re stupid, we grew up together. We partied together. We’ve made out plenty of times. It kind of feels like making out with a Fleshlight if you could imagine how that feels.
Shea: And one more question from fans: Where do you think the future of drag is? Brooklyn? L.A.? Somewhere else?
Pearl: I definitely think throughout all my travels you can’t really pinpoint a location, everywhere is different. Everywhere has something new and something I’ve never seen before. Where was I? I think I was in Boston and I met a big group of really cool club kid type of drag queens and they all did this big performance on stage before me. I was really surprised. I didn’t think Boston would have that underground 90s New York City club kid style of drag. So, that was really refreshing to see. But you can’t pinpoint a place. It’s cool to see these smaller towns have really open minded queer people living in them.
Shea: What do you want to do next with music?
Pearl: I just want to continue doing what I’m doing. I want to give it about a year before I start considering making more. Let’s see how this album goes. I’m just going to progress. I feel like this album is pretty well rounded – kind of there’s like a mood for any situation. Maybe the next one will be a little darker, heavier. I want to do more video art. It’s just a matter of time and finding time to do it all.
Shea: I imagine the next year for you is going to be very busy.
Pearl: Yeah. So, I guess I’m just trying to get through this week.
Shea: Well thank you for taking time today.
Pearl: Yeah, my pleasure.
Shea: And I look forward to meeting you on Friday.
With performances from:
The 40 Years Of Pride DJs:
NOT TO MENTION
+ Bars! Photobooths! Go-Go Dancers! More bars!Even though the theme is Flashback, the venue is from the FUTURE:
Advance tickets are $20 / Day of tickets are $25
Last 3 years we sold out!
This is a 21+ Event
As always there is no dress code,
but we recommend staying on theme with:
vintage aerobics / richard simmons / olivia newton john
unitards / spandex / workOUT clothes
(OMG the outfits are going to be amazing)
This is an LGBTA friendly event!